The first step in any revision is to read the work first. Read it objectively. Approach the piece as though you’ve never seen it before. I usually like to wait a couple of days after I finish shorter pieces to start the read through. It helps me forget a few details. In the case of a novel, I often have no problems with forgetting minute details of what I wrote. I know the gist of it, but not the nuts and bolts. Remember, your rough draft should never be considered as final. Things should always be subject to change.
While you are reading, you need to watch for things that are out of place. Read it aloud. I have a piece of software called Text Aloud which has natural sounding voices that converts text to speech. It’s fairly good and allows me to hear when I’ve made errors in spelling or word choice as I follow along in the text. I don’t worry too much about typos at my first read through, but I fix them anyway when I find them, even though I know I may be changing the text in the revision process. Mostly, I just flag anything I might want to change. Then I do the actual revision.
After the first revision, I read the piece again, using the computer to read it aloud. I listen to the dialog to ensure it sounds authentic. If dialog sounds stilted, flag it to fix in the next revision session. At least that’s what I do. I read without changing and just flag the areas I want to fix. This can be just highlighting text or making comments in the margin. Often, it’s both. After that read through, go back to the flagged spots and fix them. Then, you guessed it, read it again.
If you’ve read the work through at least twice, you might find yourself on the final read through. This is where you look for and fix any typos you find. Make sure your story logic is consistent. If you find anything more serious than a typo, revise and read it again. Do this as many times as you need to. The final read through is the one where you don’t flag anything. Only then can you say the piece is finished. Three or four read through session may be all you need, but keep in mind you might need more. If you are diligent on the first and second reads of the piece, you won’t need to do more.
That said. You must also guard against falling into endless reading and revising cycles. It’s easy to do. As long as the piece is consistent and as free from typos as possible you should be done after no more than four readings. Your final read through should only produce easily fixed typos. Once you are done. You are done. Don’t go back looking for more issues. It’s a fine line, but you usually know when you are done.
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